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Group Readings > Two Gentlemen ACT 1, Feb 5-12

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
This is where comments and discussion of group read for Two Gentlemen will take place for ACT 1.

Beginning Feb 5. (I thought I would start to get this ready in advance)

message 2: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Thank you, Candy (shambles in with old copy of 'Two Gentleman of Verona' under her arm in readiness for the due date).

message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Hee hee!

message 4: by Anne (new)

Anne Strachan I'm new to this group and will join you for this.

message 5: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
YAY!!!! Great to "meet" you Anne, we don't bite...not hard at least!

message 6: by Ericka (new)

Ericka Clou (eralon) I love the new format of separate threads per act!

message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
I do too!!!

It was Jonathan's idea and he deserves a high five!!!!

message 8: by Jonathan (last edited Jan 30, 2017 08:54PM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Candy wrote: "I do too!!! It was Jonathan's idea and he deserves a high five!!!!"

Thank you, Candy. I was just thinking ahead of how we are going to have long, healthy discussions and how we might keep the organized. You have done a great job for us here. This is a great group!

message 9: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Aw shucks...but it really is the group much fun!

message 10: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 173 comments Thanks, Candy and everyone, for putting so much energy into these discussions and making them happen. They keep me going back to the texts to find things I missed before.
I've got a different sort of reflection on who wrote what. The fact that we can be so unsure of mixed authorship means that - for these EARLY 'Shakespeare' plays - even if we sorted out exactly which scene was written by whom, it wouldn't make any difference to how we value the play. What matters is the emergence of Elizabethan theatre as a collective genre, like early film or TV, with perhaps a dozen or more writers all contributing and bouncing off each other. Shakespeare as a distinct voice emerges with the middle and later plays, where there is no argument about his authorship, or there are known collaborations. But what's distinctive about him is precisely that he absorbs a whole collective creation and then some. It's interesting to look for signs of that special complexity emerging in early plays, in order to understand his development towards the full complexity of the mature plays. Counting words may help to suggest or confirm, or can be intriguing as a kind of game, but of course adds nothing to assessment of quality or meaning.

message 11: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 01, 2017 03:04AM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Gabriel wrote: "Thanks, Candy and everyone, for putting so much energy into these discussions and making them happen. They keep me going back to the texts to find things I missed before.
I've got a different sort ..."

I don't view this is as a spoiler, as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot. But, S was known for his euphemisms, sexual innuendo, double-meanings, and word-play. I have read Marlowe and I find no sign of this kind of word-play. I believe that the language of this play will leave little doubt that it was S's ingenuity and craftiness which birthed this play. In any case, it will be something fun for us to discuss, if Candy permits a reasonable discussion of S's naughtiness.

message 12: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 173 comments I agree, Jonathan, about Shakespeare's word-play which is lacking in Marlowe, and I want to take that thought further. From the word go, here in the first act, we are given a sense of the multiplicity of experience, which is not found in Marlowe or, I think, in the few other Elizabethans I've dipped into. 'Some shallow story of deep love' is just witty but even in this lighthearted atmosphere, we are given at once what you could call (sorry to sound pompous) a dialectical approach to experience. Two friends, one in love, the other saying love is a waste of time, but the one in love also seems perhaps more in love with his friend than with the woman he says he's in love with. Yet the one who's not in love seems to have a much better understanding of the tribulations of being in love. Then the one who is in love expresses it as though he wishes he wasn't:
I leave myself, my friends, an all, for love, -
Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphosed me;
Made me neglect my studies, lose my time,
War with good counsel, set the world at nought,
Make wit with musing weak, heart sick with thought.
Through this kind of divergent, many-layered thinking, despite its surface artifice, we get drawn into a sense of what the reality of emotions and relationships is really like, rather than just simple points of view confronting each other. Another thing I don't think we ever get in Marlowe is a women-only scene - women talking to women without men present. In Marlowe (again as far as I recall) there's only ever one woman at a time, so one gets no sense of women as characters who interact in their own right. Interestingly 2Gents is thought to be one of S's earliest plays, so he had this complexity (though perhaps not maturity) from the start - in comedy (another no-go area for Marlowe) but took a bit longer to weave it into history plays. The sexual innuendos and puns are an embellishment on top of this.

message 13: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 02, 2017 12:37AM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Gabriel wrote: "Interestingly 2Gents is thought to be one of S's earliest plays, "

Good info. Thank you. I did not know this. One of my S collections said Titus may have been his first, but that it was not even clear if he wrote Titus. Could Titus have been one he co-authored? Hmmm...

But, there is something interesting here. I believe also 2 Gents has the least number of characters and may have been his shortest. This makes sense. Authors, poets, and playwrights tend to become more extravagant as time goes by. So, does the earliness of this play account for a certain simplicity?

message 14: by Lucinda (last edited Feb 09, 2017 11:12AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Hello, everyone. I don't actually remember off the top of my head if 'Two Gentleman of Verona' is shorter than 'A Comedy of Errors' or not. It seems it was generally thought to have been written sometime between 1589 and 1593.
I suppose that Shakespeare was testing how much complexity an audience would accept?
I was amazed to read that it wasn't actually performed for nearly two hundred years after Shakespeare's death. I know 'All's Well That Ends Well' suffered a similar fate, but that was partly due to the reputation it acquired as 'the unfortunate play' accompanied by bad luck.
It appears to have been based on an earlier prose work 'The Seven Books of Diana' which was translated into English in the 1580's and contained some of the same plot features, and an anonymous play since lost 'The History of Felix and Philomena' which may have been based on it and was performed by the King's Men in 1585.
I've just read the first scene.
Even in this very early play, Shakespeare gets straight into the action. Valentine is being sent away - presumably for his education - and Proteus is staying at home and is in love. Valentine scorns romantic love and he and Proteus have an exchange full of puns. He also makes the comment that becomes sadly ironical later: -
'Wish me partaker in thy happiness
When thou doest' meet with good hap.... '
Then he has a coarser exchange with Valentine's servant. Why he uses Valentine's confidential servant and not is own to deliver a love note to Julia isn't clear to me but their might be a good reason, as it is made clear that Shakespeare is definite at this point that Speed is Valentine's servant as he is going on the ship with Valentine. Neither city is anywhere near the sea, but it has been pointed out that they could have been travelling by river.
There is a particularly bawdy meaning in his calling Julia 'a laced mutton' , ie a prostitute and suggesting that Proteus had 'best stick her'. Proteus rejects the bawdy innuendo with a witticism: 'I'd best pound you.'
The theme of Proteus' being 'metomorphosed' by love and Julia starts early.
It seems that complaining over the size of tips was the stock response of bribed servants in comedy, according to the introduction in my Arden Shakespeare, and Speed goes in for a lot of it.

message 15: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Yes, great introduction Lucinda!

message 16: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Yes, many thanks for the information, Lucinda. I did not know the play was not performed for such a long period, and indeed I'm very surprised since I should think it would be a crowd pleaser. I just finished watching the first act of the BBC's 1980s production and found it most enjoyable--and my guess is that it would be even more endearing on stage.

message 17: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Thanks, everyone.
Very true, Lea. It is so difficult to know which were Shakespeare's primary influences - he must have been a great reader in an age when books weren't freely available, besides all the plays he would necessarily see.
I've got the BBC version too, David; they do it very well as a sort of send up of drama, particularly the later forest scenes - I too, mustn't write a spoiler here.
Ha, Ha, were those terrible wigs allocated to the actors as part of the fun?
It is very amusing, though in that, they have to play down the bawdy humour to make it acceptable to 12 plus, I think; they really miss out on delivering some of the puns with - ahem - appropriate body language...
My recollection is that Shakespeare's reputation suffered an eclipse in the seventeenth century, sparked off by first Cromwell closing theatres and then by his being out of fashion in the debauched court of the Restoration, and it was only gradually as the eighteenth century drew in that his true stature was recognised. Again, I don't want to write a spoiler, but while this play is, as David says, indeed a 'crowd pleaser' - I think the difficulties with the last scene may have been a factor - again, as with 'All's Well That Ends Well'.
Onto scene three now, but I have to go to Welsh...

message 18: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Do we all agree that in going act by act, anything found in Act 1 is fair game on this thread?

message 19: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Sounds fine by me, Jonathan. I've just read to the end of the act.
Back very soon, got to go out for a couple of hours.

message 20: by Lucinda (last edited Feb 07, 2017 04:57AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments On scene two, I suppose Shakespeare has Julia be coy about accepting Proteus' love letter, even tearing it to pieces, because he wanted to emphasize that she wasn't easily won, but that at first, Proteus had to pursue her. Perhaps he had to convince a late sixteenth century audience that she wasn't too forward, for all that she comes to dress as a page later.
There is more one to one comedy, largely through bawdy word play and the erotic significance of the letter which Julia does not want her maid to 'finger' and which can 'Be folded one upon another' in her bosom.
It seems that Proteus hasn't yet declared himself in words. It is therefore all the more exciting to her that he does so now, and the more experienced Lucetta (no doubt bribed through money given to Speed along with the letter) alternatively teases her and praises Proteus.
The antagonistic action quickly comes in then next act, with Antonio agreeing with his brother via his brother's man that Proteus needs to gain experience by going 'out' to the world, either as a soldier, an explorer, or a student at a university.
Julia has now answered Proteus' letter and he enters ecstatic.
He fears that his father may oppose the match without persuasion and in pretending the letter is form Valentine instead, brings about the separation from Julia he was trying to avoid. Antonio is delighted that Proteus seems eager to join his friend.
Antonio certainly comes across as domineering. 'No more of stay; tomorrow you must go.'
Proteus comes out with some striking lines towards the close of the scene:
O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!

message 21: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Candy, do my eyes deceive me or is there a place for comments on Act III but none for Act II?

message 22: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Act 2 is there...just down a few posts...I'll tag it...

message 23: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
These lines about shoes and boots are so adorable!

That's on some shallow story of deep love:
How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.
That's a deep story of a deeper love:
For he was more than over shoes in love.
'Tis true; for you are over boots in love,
And yet you never swum the Hellespont.

And the following is not only interesting because it references "labour and love" (LLL) but it also could be seen as the authors intent for this play. Is the play going to explore why we take love so seriously and this lines by Valentine seems to me that even if we lose at love it gives us something ...does love give us a benefit or character eve if it isn't reciprocated?

message 24: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud
The eating canker dwells, so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all.
And writers say, as the most forward bud
Is eaten by the canker ere it blow,
Even so by love the young and tender wit
Is turn'd to folly, blasting in the bud,
Losing his verdure even in the prime

Here is the association with consuming or consumer and eating with love that we saw in first Act of Troilus and Cressida

message 25: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
I love the Scene 2 with Julia and Lucetta. It's so fun, and Lucinda, I think you must be right that Proteus hasn't indicated his feelings for Julia....amd her attitude to not even taking the letter at first is kind of funny and also real. Afraid of what love might feel like if she reads the letter and then feels rejected.

I had the feeling that actually the letter might have been Lucetta! So I didn't think of a bribe that infused Lucetta....but I thought maybe she might have known what the letter said...and she may even have felt a crush on Proteus....or respect for his emotion. Lucetta says what she likes about the other two suitors....but when it comes to articulating why she approves of Proteus....she has no words...just an approval.

message 26: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Candy, the word "canker" in the lines you mentioned is one of those amusing puns which S uses throughout this play. There are at least 3 senses of the word that apply here:

1) a fungal disease of a tree
2) a thrush (singing bird)
3) (Fig) a malign and corrupting influence that is difficult to eradicate

In 1.1.46 may refer to the thrush. While in 1.1.49, it seems canker refers to the disease. In both cases, canker insinuates that love is a corrupting influence.

message 27: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Jonathan, I think Shakespeare uses "canker," one of his favorite words, even more broadly--and certainly the disease-sense is not limited to trees (he often refers to the 'cankered rose,' for example).

I would go so far as to say the word "canker" is to Shakespeare what the word "cancer" is to our time. I believe "canker" and "cancer" share the same etymological root.

message 28: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Yes. David that is right according to OED.

message 29: by Lucinda (last edited Feb 09, 2017 11:24AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Sorry, Candy, I don' t know how I missed that! I begin to 'doubt the truth of my own eyes'!
It does seem ambiguous about whether or not Proteus has declared himself. Julia complains that he has said very little, which Lucetta defends as a sign of sincerity. It is interesting that Lucetta has no words about why she prefers Proteus. Is this in indication that - though this may sound far fetched - she has a 'gut feeling' an intuition that he is not at heart duplicitous? Though this may be thought to be proved false, if so, by his later duplicity (mustn't write a spoiler) maybe he is true to himself at the beginning and after the first 'wrong act' every moral standard goes in succession, one by one. Maybe the Elizabethans/Jacobeans thought like that? But really, I shouldn't have posted this so early.
The remarks about 'canker' are intriguing, too. I have never looked that up.

message 30: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Lucinda wrote: "Sorry, Candy, I don' t know how I missed that! I begin to 'doubt the truth of my own eyes'!"

If he had not declared his love, then why do they bring him up in the conversation of who is the worthiest of Julia's love? Julia's doubting her eyes could be a reference to her surprise that he is writing to her, after previously being so tacit about it. Where is this line? I couldn't find it.

message 31: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Lucetta does say, "Fire that's closest kept burns most of all" (1.2.32). She was defending Proteus' silence, similar to how Coredelia's refusal to expound on her love of King Lear showed her to be the daughter that loved him most.

Lucetta kept quiet when Proteus' name came up because she had nothing bad to say about him. Remember, she had objections to the first two. Sir Eglamour: "he never should be mine" (13). Mercatio: "of himself, so so" (15). She says of Proteus, "Of many good I think him best" (23).

message 32: by Lucinda (last edited Feb 10, 2017 01:34AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Sorry, Jonathan, ha, ha, the line I quoted as a joke as an excuse for not seeing the Act II thread was in fact from 'All's Well That End's Well' when Helena reappears- sorry it made you search for it in 'Two Gentleman'.
You are right; Cordelia, the most sincere of all of Shakespeare's characters - to the point where some dislike her for her lack of tact - does say 'Love and be silent'. Shakespeare does seem to think that a lack of flowery speeches and sincerity go together (I tend to agree with him).
On Proteus' not being specific, I believe a declaration of love and a proposal to a virgin had to be synonymous in that age - because otherwise it would imply that the man wanted the woman to allow him freeedoms not seen as acceptable in an single girl, so that might have something to do with it?
So, perhaps, Proteus has implied - by looks, tender compliments, etc, his feelings, but not yet declared them until he has seen enough encouragement from Julia to risk declaring himself? Then he writes the letter.

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